Tag Archives: Templars

In search of the true history of the Templars

Poster Templars conference, MGHAfter four years of blogging it is truly time to bring in one of these subjects of medieval history that inevitable turn up in conversation about the Middle Ages. The rise and fall of the military order of the Templars was already a spectacular theme before bestseller authors as Dan Brown came along to give them yet another dimension. The Dutch twist in this post is surely Dan Brown’s recent visit to my country! In Munich the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, since nearly two centuries most active in editing sources on Germany’s medieval history, will host from February 24 to 27, 2014 an international conference with the title The Templars, their sources and their competitors (1119-1314). An addition in German to this title, Die Templer (1119-1314). Bilanz und Perspektiven der Forschung, underlines the need for a balanced view and multiple perspectives in researching the history of the Templars. The program of the Munich conference is impressive. In this post I will not try to do things better than the scholars presenting their work in Munich, and restrict myself to pointing out for you some online resources concerning the Templars. By the way, the MGH published recently a book by William J. Courtenay and Karl Ubl, Gelehrte Gutachten und königliche Politik im Templerprozeß (Hannover 2010; MGH Studien und Texte, 55) on learned medieval opinions concerning the Templars written at the university of Paris for the French king.

Balance and perspectives

For some reason we tend to think of the Templars as a French organization, and thus my eyes, too, looked first in the direction of France. In the ARCHIM database of the Archives nationales with digitized sources a whole section has been devoted to the trial of the Templars. In the fonds “Trésor des chartes” the numbers J 413 to J 417 stem from this trial. The great French historian Jules Michelet edited some of these sources in his Procès des templiers (2 vol., Paris 1841-1851; reprint 2 vol., Paris 1987; online for example in the Internet Archive, the Hathi Trust Digital Library (direct link), and in the Digitale Sammlungen at Munich). The ARCHIM database presents in this section the following documents:

  • J 413, no. 18: the procès-verbal of the interrogation held at Paris from October 19 to November 24, 1307 – 44 parchments forming a roll with a length of 22 meter; among the Templars interrogated was Jacques de Molay (around 1245-1314), the grand-maître of the order – this document was published in the second volume of Michelets study
  • J 413, no. 20: a procès-verbal of the interrogation of thirteen templars from the bailliage of Caen (Normandy) by four Dominican friars from Caen and two royal commissioners; October 28 and 29, 1307 – 1 charter
  • J 413, no. 22: an authorized copy (vidimus) of the official royal order for the arrest of Templars in September 1307 in the bailliage of Rouen (Normandy), the official accusations, and the order of Guillaume de Paris, the grand-inquisitor of France for the inquisitors at Toulouse and Carcassonne to proceed against the Templars – September 14 and 22, 1307; the accusations are not dated; official copy October 21, 1307 – edited by Georges Lizerand, Le dossier de l’affaire des templiers (Paris 1923, reprint Paris 2007), document no. II, p. 16-29.
  • J 413, no. 23: the procès-verbal of the interrogation of five Templars from Saint-Étienne de Renneville (now département Eure) and two Templars from Sainte-Vaubourg (now département Seine-Maritime); October 18, 1307 – 1 charter
  • J 413, no. 29: an inventory of goods and men belong to the bailliage of Rouen of the Templars; October 13, 1307 – 6 charters – the goods and houses were located in the modern départment Calvados

The Archives Nationales held in 2011 an exhibition on the Templars affair. In the accompanying leaflet L’affaire des Templiers: du procès au mythe they showed an interesting selection of manuscripts, with also a concise bibliography on the trial of the Templars, its impact and afterlife. When I first mentioned here – in 2011 and in particular in 2012 – these documents digitized at ARCHIM I overlooked an important element of the notices, the fact that you can click on the mots clés , the keywords, to get more results. Clicking on the keyword Temple brings you forty results. To my surprise apart from the five documents already encountered here just one of them has anything to do with the Templars. It seems that the labeling here is not as perfect as you would like it to be. At first the only additional document seemed to be AE/II/213, an act of the clergy in the diocese Bourges dated April 19, 1308 sending deputies to the assembly of the French États Généraux convoked by the French king Philippe IV le Bel. However, among the mots clés added to this document are Ordre du Templetemplier and procès des Templiers. This helped me tracing three further digitized documents in the AE/II series kept at the Musée de l’histoire de France in Paris, one of the institutions under the aegis of the Archives nationales:

  • AE/II/146: a confirmation of a gift to the Templars by Guillaume, chatelain of Saint-Omer, of two churches in Flanders, in Slype and Leffinge; Jerusalem, 1137 – 1 charter – edited by André d’Albon, Cartulaire général de l’ordre du Temple , 1119?-1150 (Paris 1922; reprint Madrid 2010) no. 141, p. 99 – online at Gallica)
  • AE/II/311: interrogation of Templars in the sénéchaussée of Carcassonne; November 13, 1307 – notices on paper, 13 pages
  • AE/II/1634: the papal bull of pope Clemens V attributing to the Knights Hospitaller of St. John all goods of the Templars; May 2, 1312 -1 charter

Another series at the Archives nationales contains three digitized registers with information about the Templars:

  • JJ/35: Convocations, mandements and commissions issued by king Philippe le Bel, 1302-1305, mainly concerning the wars in Flanders; on fol. 114r-115v two acts about the redemption of goods belonging to the Cistercians and the Templars, 1304
  • JJ/36: a copy of register JJ/35 with additional material; the two acts from 1304 are here at fol. 91r-91v
  • JJ/43: Register of royal acts concerning Flanders, the Templars (fol. 45r-52v), the papacy (fol. 37r-44v) and money; 1305-1314

Of course more can be found in the various archival collections of the Archives nationales. You can search online in many inventories in the Salle des inventaires and in a second section with other inventories. Royal charters from the reign of Philip IV the Fair mentioning the Temple can be searched online in the Actes royaux database of the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes in Paris with summaries (regestes)57 charters of the 4,900 charters in this database mention the Temple. They show very clearly the pivotal financial role of the Templars for the king. No. 2864 is the act about the Temple in JJ/35 (no. 203). The edition in the Corpus philippicum of the 6,000 royal charters issued between 1285 and 1314 has not yet been completed.

Is there a quicker way to find these digitized resources at the Archives nationales? Only as a second thought I used the search engine at the French cultural heritage portal Culture to look for the Templars. It surprised me indeed that I could quickly filter from the many thousand results those from for the reign of king Philipp the Fair, and arrive immediately at nine items digitized by the Archives nationales. In this post I mention twelve digitized items, and thus it seems the three items from the AE/II series at the Musée de l’histoire de France are not yet harvested by the search engine at Culture. In the ARCHIM database is a separate sections for the Grands documents de l’histoire de France where the three AE series appear online.

French regional archives

Outside the buildings of the Archives nationales at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Paris and Fontainebleau other French archives also have records touching upon the Templars. Viewing the sheer number of regional archives – only few French towns have a municipal archive – you might consider it an impossible task to find these records. At the international portal e-Corpus based at Arles, however, you can benefit immensely from the research done to build a Bibliothèque virtuelle des Templiers – MILITES TEMPLI. In this virtual library you find extensive information on the Templar records kept in the fonds of the Grand-Prieure de Saint Gilles of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John at the Archives départementales des Bouches-des-Rhône at Marseille. With the goods of the Templars their archival records, too, came to this military order. The second part of the virtual Templars’ library are the notices assembled by Bruno Marty from the catalogues of French regional archives about their archival records for the Templars. You can view the relevant digitized pages. Marty gives a very useful overview written in 2005 of archival records in the Provence and also elsewhere, and an extensive bibliography concerning the Templars (PDF, 44 p.). The digital collection at e-Corpus for the Templars contains four digitized historical documents, among them in particular the “Authenticum Domus Militiae Templi sancti Aegidii”, a register with documents from 1139 to 1259 from Saint-Gilles-du-Gard of which the original at Arles, Archives municipales, GG 90, has been digitized. More information about e-Corpus can be found on a blog at Hypotheses. At the time of finishing this post I could not reach the e-Corpus portal to check again and give you more details. Many sources for the Grand-Prieure of Saint-Gilles are kept at Marseilles in the Archives départementales des Bouches-du-Rhône. You can search the inventories of the various fonds online.

The Patrimoine numérique portal to digitized French cultural collections can bring you to at least four collections concerning the Templars. We have met here already the AE/II series at the Musée de l’histoire de France. Due to a broken link I could not reach at first the eighteenth-century Atlas du Petit et du Grand Saint-Jean (ADH, 55 H 3) kept at the Archives départementales d’Hérault in Pierresvives, a register with maps of possessions of the commanderie of Montpellier. At Puy-en-Velay the Archives départementales de la Haute-Loire keep a register from the seventeenth century of the Commanderie de Chantoin. The sources said to be digitized, including charters of the Templars at Larzac, are unfortunately untraceable at the website of the Archives départementales d’Aveyron in Rodez.

A multitude of books and resources

Sofar I have already a few times indicated online versions of books and editions. It is quite a feat to trace those scholarly books still worth using between all kind of other publications. Some of them can be found conveniently in L’histoire des moines, chanoines et religieux au Moyen Âge edited by André Vauchez and Cécile Gaby (Turnhout 2003), a volume of the French series L’atélier du médiéviste. Laurent Dailliez published a Bibliographie du Temple (Paris 1972) in which he followed earlier attempts by Périme Dessubre (1928) and Heinrich Neu (1965). Alain Demurger’s Vie et mort de l’ordre du Temple (third ed., Paris 1994) has a bibliographic supplement. The French guide to the history of religious orders mentions editions of the rule and statutes of the Templars and relevant studies about them. Surely the most publicized new edition concerning this military order was that of the Chinon document in 2008 [Barbara Frale et alii (eds.), Processus contra Templarios (Città del Vaticano, 2008)] and some accompanying documents kept at the Archivio Segreto del Vaticano [A.A. Arm. D 208-210, 211, 217(A), and Reg. Aven. 48]. These documents show that the investigation held between August 17 and 20, 1308 at the castle of Chinon led to the absolution by the pope of Jacques de Molay and the pope’s clear intent to rehabilitate the Templars. In 2011 Nathan Dorn told the story of the Chinon document in a fine blog post at In Custodia Legis.

A quick way to discern the scholarly quality of publications about the Templars is their presence in the online literature catalogue for medieval history of the Regesta Imperii at Mainz. Needless to say that you will eventually have to use other bibliographical resources, too, but this catalogue is most helpful. If you have found for example a digitized book in the Hathi Trust Digital Library you can easily check for it in this catalogue. The Online Medieval Sources Bibliography can help you to find more recent printed and online versions of editions and translations; for the Templars you need to choose the subject “Military orders”.

One of the serious digitized modern books about the Templars is the study by Alan J. Forey, Templars in the Corona de Aragón (Oxford 1973), online at LIBRO, the Library of Iberian Resources Online hosted by the University of Central Arkansas. Forey’s book has a very valuable section on manuscript resources in Spain. Last year I published a post about Aragon with a long paragraph about the Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón (ACA) in Barcelona. The ACA is home to many archival collections (fondos documentales) which are listed rather summarily but useful in a 25-page leaflet.

Forey mentions at p. 457 registro ACA, Real Cancilleria, 291 of the 343 (!) registers from the reign of king Jaime II concerning the trial of the Templars [Jaime II. Varia 5. Processus contra magistrum militesque Milicie Templi]. This register with more than 700 pages can now be searched online at the Spanish PARES archive portal. On the PARES search screen you select the ACA from a drop down list and you can start navigating through a tree structure – admittedly a bit cumbersome – to the fondos and items within them. At PARES the actual register 291 starts at fol. 22r. You can enlarge the pages of this document very much, but the quality of the images remains less than you would want it to be. Of course much more can be found in the ACA. In the Actes royaux database I found a notice (no. 3372) about a letter of king Philip the Fair to Jaime II of Aragón, written on October 26, 1307, about the interrogation of Jacques de Molay the day before. The letter is kept at the ACA, Templarios 39, and the notice has a reference to a copy of this interrogation held at the ACA [Real Cancilleria, Pergaminos 2481]. At the ACA, too, you will find records of the Templars within the fondo of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John, the Gran Priorado de Catalunya. Forey has written also about the fall of the Templars in Aragon [The fall of the Templars in the Crown of Aragon (Aldershot, etc., 2001)].

Myths and history

Were the Templars heretics? What were the motives of the French king to act against them? Doing research on the Templars bristles with a lot of questions for which I prefer to put aside the novels of famous authors. I promised to make this post not too long. Websites do not bring everything. I have kept on purpose a safe distance from specialized websites on the history of the Templars, because it is often very difficult to ascertain the quality of the information presented on them. A second reason is simply the lack of space in a single post! There is nothing against using printed studies, editions and translations. English readers can turn with confidence to the classic account by Malcolm Barber, The trial of the Templars (Cambridge, etc., 1978; often reprinted), and to the selection of translated documents edited by Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, The Templars. Selected sources (Manchester, etc., 2002). The collection of scholarly articles edited by Jochen Burgtorf, Paul Crawford and Helen J. Nicholson, The debate on the trial of the Templars (1307-1314) (Aldershot, 2010) will give you a recent impression of the various subjects facing scholars. Dutch readers might start with Jan Hosten’s book De tempeliers : de tempelorde tijdens de kruistochten en in de Lage Landen (Amsterdam 2006) or Krijgers voor God : de orde van de tempeliers in de Lage Landen (1120-1312) by Michel Nuyttens (Leuven 2007). In this post I aimed simply at drawing your attention to some online resources which bring you to the original documents. I hope to have made you curious about the true history of the Templars which involves more than only the spectacular events between 1307 and 1314.

A postscript on manuscripts

By focusing on archival records in this post you would almost forget that manuscripts, too, are a very important source for our knowledge of the Templars. I will offer here a nutshell guide to French (digitized) manuscripts. The manuscripts catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Catalogue collectif de France, with its section for manuscripts, should provide a starting point. In two posts from 2011 on doing research for legal history in Paris and a post on French customary law – with a focus on Normandy – you can find more on manuscripts in some French libraries. You can tune the CCFr to show digitized manuscripts; among them is Paris, BnF, ms. français 1977Le règle dou Temple, written between 1301 and 1325. The portal Biblissima gives you further guidance to projects around medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in France. The Ménestrel portal for medieval studies, too, has a nice overview of French manuscript digitization projects. The project Bibliothèque Virtuelle des Manuscrits Médiévaux of the IRHT has no search function for content, but otherwise you can find here many digitized manuscripts. Relevant cartularies and editions of them can be found using the online Répertoire des cartulaires médiévaux et modernes with for instance much on the Templars’ cartulary of Saint-Gilles; charters and cartularies were in 2010 the subject of another post here.

More on e-Corpus

A few days after the publication of this post the French portal e-Corpus was again fully visible. Apart from the virtual library about the Templars there are among the 27 virtual collections at e-Corpus digitized books about old Provencal law (Aix-en-Provence), books on (Arabic) codicology from the Centre de Conservation du Livre in Arles, the main institution behind the portal, and digitized books on Islamic law (Marseille). The portal can be viewed in seven languages, including Arabic. Apart from the collections accessible at e-Corpus the organization supports some twenty other websites, with much attention to digitization projects for manuscripts.

On revisiting e-Corpus and the virtual Templars’ library I also found a link to the very sophisticated online version at the Université d’Avignon of Guillaume Mollat’s critical edition of Étienne Baluze, Vitae paparum avenionensium [1693] (4 vol., Paris 1914-1928). It is most interesting to read Baluze’s view of the trial of the Templars. As few others in his time Baluze (1630-1718) was equipped to look deep into the legal matters of medieval history.

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Turning to good account: medieval account rolls and legal history

How to present a faithful picture of legal history? Writing here about various subjects enforces the conviction that talking about legal histories in the plural is closer to the mark. Taking account of everything that is going on in this scholarly discipline is not possible. In my view the very subject of keeping accounts and its connection to legal history deserves a post here. In this case, too, you can choose a wide variety of perspectives, sources to be highlighted and stories to be told from the Ancient Near East until modern computerized accounting systems. I will in particular discuss a number of projects for the digitization of medieval account rolls.

From clay tablets to computers

Accounts are among the earliest surviving written sources of mankind. From ancient Mesopotamia clay tablets have been found written in cuneiform script. You can find an example of a digital collection of cuneiform records from the Assyrian empire on the website of the Library of Congress. A substantial percentage of ancient papyri, too, tell us about expenses and income, or stem indeed from official administration of all kinds for both secular and religious institutions. At Papyri.info you can search the bibliography for papyri rolls. From Roman times accounts have been preserved on various materials. Wax tablets with accounts are among the Vindolanda tablets found near Hadrian’s Wall in 1973. The tablets now on display at the British Museum in London have been digitized by Oxford University.

Logo Computatio

For our knowledge of medieval history accounts and account rolls are abundantly present. Otto Volk (Universität Marburg) has put anyone interested in medieval accounts and accounting into his debt by his efforts to create at Computatio an online bibliography of scholarship concerning the late medieval and Early Modern period.

Lately a number of projects in the United Kingdom has started to digitize a substantial number of medieval rolls. You will find a very large number of digitized records at Anglo-American Legal Tradition, a website of the O’Quinn Law Library, Houston University in cooperation with the National Archives at Kew. Among the records are plea rolls, Chancery Rolls and pipe rolls (E 372 series). The pipe roll from 1130 is the second oldest item from the royal administration, only preceded by Domesday Book (1086). Finding digitized pipe rolls and digitized editions published by the Pipe Roll Society is made easier using the overview and guide at Medieval Genealogy. The Pipe Roll Society announces for 2012 a new edition of the oldest surviving pipe roll from 1129-1130 and new editions of the pipe rolls for Normandy. The first edition of the oldest pipe roll was by Joseph Hunter, Magnum rotulum Scaccarii vel magnum rotulum Pipae (…) (London 1833; digitized at the Hathi Trust Digital Library). An edition of Norman rolls was published by Thomas Stapleton, Magni rotuli scaccarii Normanniae sub regibus Angliae (2 vol., London 1840-1844). These volumes have been digitized in the Digitale Sammlungen at Munich where you can find also the Rotulus cancellarii vel antigraphum magni rotuli pipae de tertio anno regni regis Johannis (London 1833). For Normandy the first volume of the new edition has already appeared, Pipe rolls of the Exchequer of Normandy, I, For the reign of Henry II 1180 and 1184, Vincent Moss (ed.) (London 2004). Mark Hagger writes in his article ‘A Pipe Roll for 25 Henry I’, English Historical Review CCXXII (2007) 133-140, about a fourteenth-century register from St. Albans Abbey containing a fragment from the pipe roll for Michaelmas 1124.

Separate projects are devoted to several types of roles. In the Henry III Fine Rolls Project rolls from 1216 to 1272 are being digitized on which the payments for royal concession were noted (C 60 and E 371 series). A translation will also be provided. This project at King’s College London is accompanied by a blog. The project website can boast a useful links selection to other projects. The Gascon Rolls Project is concerned with rolls similar to the Henry III Fine Rolls for the period 1317-1468 for matters concerning Gascony (C 61). On a French webpage you will find much information on previous editions of earlier rolls concerning Gascony. The Parliament Rolls from 1275 to 1504 have been edited earlier. The digitized version can be consulted only for subscribers at British History Online. Luckily you will find here digitized editions of many types of medieval rolls in open access. Access to a number of relevant sources is also provided by many calendars, the typical English finding aid created for many sources. The Online Medieval Sources Bibliography is a very useful tool to find digitized editions of medieval sources. At present for example 160 digitized editions of account rolls are included. In the 2011 issue of Digital Medievalist Morgan Kay and Maryanne Kowalewski discuss this bibliographical database which includes now more than 4,000 items.

Accounting and counting in medieval times

In this post I want to look at digitized medieval accounts and in particular account rolls, but sooner or later it becomes necessary to look first at the medieval way of accounting. Accounts were kept and sometimes rolls created to make it possible to account for both the actions of for example a royal officer, and also for the fines due to the king, which might not necessarily and automatically match with the actual amounts of money received. The accounts present a picture of posts concerning actions and money transfers for which the authors were held accountable.

The very word control stems from the practice of checking rolls against the receipts and the amount of money present after a particular period. In the field of trade and commerce medievalists often point to the invention of double entry book-keeping and the treatise La pratica della mercatura by Francesco Balducci Pegolotti (fl. 1310-1347). The edition by Allan Evans (Cambridge, Mass., 1936) has been digitized by the Medieval Academy of America. The first clear late medieval presentation was long said to be found in the Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita (Venice 1494) by Luca Pacioli (1445-1517) – GW 44422, digitized for example at Cologne and at the ECHO project of the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin – whose chapter on book-keeping stems partially from Giorgio Chiarini, the Florentine author of the Libro che tratta di mercanzie et usanze dei paesi. An incunable edition of this work appeared at Florence in 1481 (GW 22847). Alas the link to a digitized version at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart does not work. Vincenzo Gitti edited a text by Pacioli, the Tractatus de computis et scripturis / Trattato de’ computi e delle scritture (Turin 1878), also available online at the Universität Köln.

These treatises came into existence after some major merchants and towns had already started using the double entry book-keeping system during the fourteenth century. Vittorio Alfieri, La partita doppia applicata nelle scritture delle antiche aziende mercantili veneziane (Turin, etc., 1891) – digitized at Cologne – made already clear that Pacioli was probably not the first to explain this system. Alfieri discusses similar treatises up to Benvenuto Straccha’s De mercatura (1553), the first legal treatise exclusively devoted to commercial law. Straccha is the subject of a virtual exhibition at the Università Bocconi in Milan, where you can find a bibliography on him and more treatises concerning commercial law. Anne van der Helm and Johanna Postma of the Instituut Pacioli found in 1998 the manuscript of a mid-fifteenth century Italian treatise by Benedetto Cotruglio, Libro dell’arte della mercatura with an appendix, La riegola del libro which according to Van der Helm and Postma dates from the first half of the fifteenth century. This appendix is missing in the edition of Cotruglio’s text by Ugo Tucci (Venice 1990). In the paper discussing this newly discovered text – dealing not only with book-keeping but with many aspects of commerce – the authors provide an ample bibliography of relevant scholarship on the earliest book-keeping treatises.

As for the question where double book-keeping occurred for the first time L. Lauwers and M. Willekens mention in their sketch on the history of book-keeping, ‘Five hundred years of book-keeping. A portrait of Luca Pacioli’Tijdschrift voor Economie en Management 39/3 (1994) an article by Michael Scorgie, ‘Accounting fragments stored in the Old Cairo Genizah’, Accounting, business and financial history 4 (1994) 29-42, who studied a fragment of a journal dating from 1080 and four pages of accounting with credits and debts dated 1134. One can search part of the Cairo Genizah in the Genizah On-Line Database of Cambridge University Library. Images can be found also in the Friedberg Genizah Project, and in Cambridge’s DSpace. Lauwers and Willekens mention also a study by John Caldwell Colt, The Science of Double Entry Book-keeping (New York 1844; online, University of Rhode Island). Colt already guessed that the connection with Egypt, Constantinople, and the commercial network of Arabic merchants stretching from northern Africa to India, is vital for the introduction of double book-keeping. Pointing to the activity of Lombards all over Europe is another sensible line of argument. However, his assumption that the Hanseatic League also quickly took over this method, is wrong, because the cities of this commercial league long refused it.

Probably the largest single medieval commercial archive is the Fondo Datini at the Archivio di Stato, Prato, with the famous documentation about Francesco di Marco Datini, immortalized in Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato (1957). On the website one reads the affirmation that from the end of the thirteenth century double book-keeping was used in Tuscany. However correct or incorrect this statement, the Fondo Datini shows an overwhelming variety of account books.

It would be foolish not to mention at least briefly the use of Roman and Arabic numbers. Counting with Roman numbers was mostly done with an abacus. The story of Leonardo Fibonacci and his Liber abaci (1202) can be found almost anywhere. In this mathematical treatise he introduced the modus Indorum to Europe, the numerals as we know them, including the use of zero. Laurence Edward Sigler published a study and translation in English, Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci: a translation into modern English of Leonardo Pisano’s Book of Calculation (Berlin-New York 2002). The edition by Baldassare Boncompagni, Scritti di Leonardo Pisano (2 vol., Rome 1857-1862) has still to be used, and can now be consulted online in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. You can find it also together with other digitized Italian mathematical works on the Mathematica Italiana portal of the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa. It is not included in the section for the history of mathematics of the Berlin website European Cultural Heritage Online.

Rolls and scrolls on many subjects

Let’s go back from the treatises to the account rolls and account books. Many years ago I was fascinated by the rotuli mortuorum, the rolls with the names of deceased medieval monks for whom prayers were requested. More recently rolls of arms figured here in a post concerning medieval heraldry. The chapter of the Introduction to manunscripts studies by Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham (Ithaca, NY-London 2007) devoted to rolls and scrolls made me again curious about this format and its uses. Not only here figure rolls, but elsewhere in this book, too, for example a thirteenth-century roll cartulary written by a notary from Asprières in the Provence (Chicago, Newberry Library, Greenlee ms. 39), and a parchment roll with a large hole caused by the corrosive pigments of an illustration (Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 22.1). The authors mention also an example of an account roll from thirteenth-century Florence.

Michael Clanchy mentions the use of rolls in his classic study From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307 (London 1979; 3rd ed., New York 2012) and more particular also the way written records were used. Auditing a roll was indeed done by reading them aloud. Clanchy points to the possible influence of Arabic practice transmitted by English mathematicians such as Adelard of Bath on the introduction of the roll form. He reckons also with influence from Sicily which in the early twelfth century had only just been conquered on the Arabs. Scholars still debate the actual forms of this influence from the Arab world and the precise ways they might or could have led to developments in Italy.

You will excuse me for not giving examples here of all kinds of medieval rolls, even though Clanchy discusses a generous range. The Parliament rolls have been mentioned here already. Among the main sources concerning English medieval law are the plea rolls, the Exchequer rolls, the eyre rolls, the coroner rolls, the statute rolls and the assize rolls, almost all of them also treated in Clanchy’s book. For the patent rolls it is interesting to visit the website for the itinerary of King John and the rotuli litterarum patentium, with Hardy’s 1835 edition. It might seem useful to remember the Rolls Series, a major series of editions of sources from medieval Britain, but the Master of The Rolls, responsible for the series, decided to publish mainly chronicles in this series. Court rolls often contain the fines of cases. One of the major online projects for court rolls is The Court Rolls of Ramsey, Hepmangrove and Bury, 1268-1600, based on the edition of sources for this part of the East Midlands with the same title (Toronto 1990) and accompanying the book Ramsey. The life of a Fenland Town by Anne Reiber DeWindt and Edwin Brezette DeWindt (Washington, D.C., 2006). The Conisborough Court Rolls (University of Sheffield) present rolls from a manorial court in Yorkshire. For medieval Ireland the website Irish Chancery Rolls, c. 1244-1509 has been launched recently with rolls patiently reconstructed from the materials that survived the disastrous bombing of the Irish Record Office in 1916. It would be splendid to view documents from medieval Spain. Thomas Bisson’s study Fiscal accounts of Catalonia under the early count-kings (1151-1213) (2 vol., Berkeley-Los Angeles 1984) contains the text of a number of documents. For an earlier period Michel Zimmermann has written a major study on the role of writing in Catalonia, Écrire et lire en Catalogne (IXe-XIIe siècle) (2 vol., Madrid 2003).

I would like to close this post with a shortlist of separately digitized medieval account rolls and similar documents with a clear link to administration, government or jurisprudence. Don Skemer deals with statute rolls compiled by individuals in ‘From Archives to the Book Trade: Private statute rolls in England, 1285-1307’, Journal of the Society of Archivists 16 (1995) 193-206. I will exclude here many other forms, such as genealogical rolls – though I would like to point to the digitized world chronicle and genealogy of Edward IV in roll form at Philadelphia, Free Library – mortuary rolls and heraldic rolls. My brief list opens with a number of examples from the Digital Scriptorium, choosing of course examples completely digitized:

  • Los Angeles, UCLA Library, ms. Rouse 61: Rent roll; Hertfordshire, 1560 – ms. Rouse 53 is an homage roll from Norfolk, 1446-1453
  • Los Angeles, UCLA, Bancroft Library, BANC UCB 119: Purchase of land, Bergamo, 1500
  • New York, Columbia University, ms. Montgomery 22: Account roll, Ely, 1400-1415
  • San Francisco, San Francisco State University, J. Paul Leonard Library, De Bellis Collection, De Bellis H 121, Box1:A3: Roll, 1338; Italy – the exact nature of this roll is not indicated in the description
  • New York, Columbia University, Smith Documents 63: Tax roll of tithes, Vaux (Somme), first half 15th century
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, ms. Ash. Rolls 45, Procession to Parliament; 17th century – a beautiful illustrated roll; for digitized genealogical and heraldic rolls Oxford provides an ample choice
  • Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, ms. Oversize 23: Property survey; Val Secret, department Aisne, 1324
  • Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Codex 1116: Distribution of funds for churches; Volterra, 1490
  • Paris, Archives Nationales, AE/II/216: Toll tarifs, Sens, around 1223; two rolls
  • Paris, Archives Nationales, AE/II/329: Document of three apostolic commissioners concerning the nullity of the marriage between Charles the Fair and Blanche of Burgundy, 1322
  • Paris, Archives Nationales, AE/III/203: Letter of Uldjaitu, king of Persia, to Philipp the Fair and other christian princes to renew the existing alliance, 1305 – on the back of the roll is an Italian translation of the Mongol text
  • Beaune, Archives Départementales de la Côte d’Or, Chambre des Comptes de Bourgogne, B 11525: Tithe roll for the region around Beaune, 1285

Of course one can point to interesting documents concerning legal history in roll form elsewhere, not only in medieval Europe, but for example in medieval Japan. Harvard Law School Library has digitized 22 komonjo, scrolls with various legal texts from the period 1158-1591. Jewish marriage contracts in roll form are being digitized in the Ketubbot project of the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem. The Society for Old Dutch Law published a merchant guild roll from Deventer, De koopmansgilderol van Deventer voor 1249-1387, H.R. van Ommeren (ed.) (The Hague 1978), and the text of this edition – without images of the roll – can be consulted online. For Flanders and Brabant H. Nélis created an overview of account rolls in his study Chambre des Comptes de Flandre et de Brabant. Inventaire des comptes en rouleaux (Brussels 1914)

At the French Archim website you can consult online the roll with the interrogation of members of the Knights Templars from October 19 to November 24, 1307 (Paris, Archives Nationales, J 413 no. 18). Another roll from this famous trial is J 413 no. 29, a digitized inventory on six parchment leaves of the goods of the Templars in the bailliage of Caen. Using the collections search interface of the French Culture portal it seems you cannot find easily other examples in France. The Archives Nationales held in 2011 an exhibition on the Templars affair. The accompanying leaflet L’affaire des Templiers: du procès au mythe shows an interesting selection of manuscripts and contains a concise bibliography on the trial of the Templars, its impact and afterlife. The database of the Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden at Marburg contains examples of charters in roll form (Rotel), of which you can view images in black and white. At Monasterium.net, too, one can search for digitized charters of this type, but the search results here are not straightforward.

When writing this post I had to scroll to the end of my text, and thus in a way this post has become a roll, too. The pieces of parchment of a medieval roll were stitched together. I am afraid my text has some rather obvious stitches. At some points I have been much too brief, and at the same time this post contains almost too much. The scholarship in print on the variety of medieval rolls concerning the royal government of England is extensive, and I have mentioned but a few titles here. Perhaps this post just wets the appetite for more!

A postscript

What should be included, and what excluded in such a long post? Certainly not the website of the center for the history of accounting at the Université Lille-3. You will find more links on this website. Comparable centers are mentioned in the links section of the e-journal De Computis. At least three articles in the e-journal Comptabilité(s) deals directly with medieval rolls, Harmony Dewez’s 2011 illustrated contribution on the manorial rolls of Norwich Cathedral Priory, Jean-Baptiste Santamaria on accounts for the bailliage of Hesdin in fourteenth-century Artois, and Patrick Beck on accounts for the comune of Dijon.

By chance I visited the website Richard II’s Treasure, created by the Institute for Historical Research and Royal Holloway College, where besides many objects the treasury roll of this king from 1398-1399 is featured (National Archives, E 101/411/9). However, you will find on the website just two images of the roll, and the text of this 40 meter roll is missing, too. Jenny Stratford who helped creating the website gives the text in her study Richard II and the Engish Royal Treasure (Woodbridge 2011).

In 2014 the Houghton Library of Harvard University launched the beautiful website Medieval Scrolls where you can find an introduction to the subject, a database, an online exhibition with for example a roll with the text of Glanvill’s treatise on English law, and many illustrations.